Most Influential Women 2012

Dr. Kimberley Amirault-Ryan (Calgary, AB)

Dr.Kimberley Amirault-Ryan has worked in professional sport since 2001 becoming the first and only woman to be the Performance Consultant with the New York Rangers, the New York Knicks, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Edmonton Oilers. She has worked in Olympic sport since 1998 and has worked with the Gold Medal winning teams of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team, the Canadian Cross Country Ski Team, and the Canadian Speedskating Team. For the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympics she was the Lead of Sport Psychology for the Canadian Olympic Committee. Currently Kimberley is the Lead of Sport Psychology for the 2014 Sochi Olympics for the Canadian Olympic Committee; the Performance Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers; and a motivational speaker to corporations across North America. For her groundbreaking work, she has received numerous awards including the Women’s Executive Network Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100; Avenue magazine’s Top 40 Under 40; and this is the second time Dr. Amirault-Ryan has been named to the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Video: Dr Amirault-Ryan

Caroline Assalian (Ottawa, ON)

Chief Sport Officer, Canadian Olympic Committee

With Team Canada’s participation in the Games of the XXX Olympiad successfully completed, Caroline Assalian returns to the CAAWS Most Influential List for a third time because of the impact of her team work and leadership. The constant pressures and building to create optimum conditions in which Canadian athletes can succeed are what make Assalian’s role so influential. Responsible for the development and execution of the COC’s annual and long-term strategic plan for sport, Assalian is a problem-solver, an energetic leader as well as a role model for women in leadership. In addition to the challenges of preparing the Canadian Olympic Team for the London Olympic Games, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the 2015 Pan American Games are fast approaching and required strategic games preparation in 2012, making this past year extremely intense for Assalian and her colleagues and partners.

Video: Women and Leadership NETWORK/ Caroline Assalian on Conflict

Loreen Barnett (Vancouver, BC)

Secretary General, International Triathlon Union

International sport leadership is still very much dominated by men, but Loreen Barnett is helping to change the game. Re-elected as Secretary General this past year thanks to her stellar work, Barnett who is a member of Triathlon Canada’s Hall of Fame (Builder Category) helped to significantly increase the prize money and exposure for athletes, engaged key stakeholders in major decisions, and helped lead a working board grounded in ethical governance. Success has also translated into an increase in the number and types of quality events hosted by more federations. It is interesting to note that the ITU, which represents 168 national federations, remains the only international federation in the Olympic Games with women in the top two leadership roles (their President is Marisol Casado).
This is Barnett’s—originally from Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan and who was the first Canadian woman to compete in the Hawaii Ironman—first time on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Audio: Legends of triathlon – Loreen Barnett

The late Sarah Burke (Squamish, BC)

Athlete, coach, mentor

Although skiing pioneer and role-model Sarah Burke died tragically in early 2012, the influence of this exceptional individual was such that she remained an inspiration throughout the year, and her legacy will remain in the future. Burke helped change the game and influenced women’s participation in major halfpipe competitions including the upcoming Olympic Games. Thousands of friends, family and supporters travelled to Whistler Village for the Sarah Burke’s Celebration of Life in April 2012, attesting to how many lives she had touched and how she transformed her sport, Poems were read, pictures were shown and songs were sung as she once again brought a community together. One of the constant themes in 2012 was that Sarah, who had won every honour and competition open to a freeskier, inspired people to pursue their dream in sports and physical activity. Burke was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012. This is Sarah Burke’s first appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

The Sarah Burke Foundation, which celebrate Sarah by offering grants to aspiring winter sports athletes and raising money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was launched in early January 2013, visit

Video: Winter X Games 2012: Sarah Burke Tribute

Sandra Chénard (Ottawa, ON)

Official, Competition Steward and Meet Coordinator

Sandra Chénard is Speed Skating Canada’s most successful female technical official, both domestically and internationally and is the only Canadian female official assigned to World Cup events. In 2012, she was recognized with the FOX 40 Kitch MacPherson Award of Excellence, a national officiating awards program recognizing a male and a female technical official/judge who have made a significant contribution to officiating. Nationally, Chenard was a driving force behind the Speed Skating Canada Domestic Development Committee and most recently the Speed Skating Canada Competition Development Committee. Internationally she has been assigned to five World Cups and two World Team events. Over the past several year, Chenard, has also contributed as a facilitator for the delivery of national officiating clinics, and has also written and reviewed several training manuals for technical officials. This is Chénard’s first appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Chandra Crawford and Marie-Hélène
(Canmore, AB)

Founder of Fast and Female / Executive Director, Fast and Female

This is the second time that the team of Chandra Crawford and Marie-Hélène Thibeault are on the CAAWS most Influential List because of the impact of Fast and Female, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring girls to stick to sports and healthy lifestyles by exposing them to innovative programming led by world-class female athletes who act as ambassadors and role models. In 2012, under the leadership of both Crawford and Thibeault, Fast and Female hosted more than 25 events in Canada, the US and Australia in a broad variety of
sports and impacted more than 1,500 young women and their families.
In addition to expanding its signature events for young women ages 9 to 19, Fast and Female’s programming has also grown to feature online content such as Fast and Female TV and the Fast and Female Facebook page – all of which are intended to support the retention of young women in sports.

Video: Fast and Female TV

Fast and Female website:

Tanya Dubnicoff (Winnipeg, MB)

Coach, Olympian

Three-time Olympian and four time Pan American Games gold medallist Tanya Dubnicoff, who transitioned into coaching excellence post her highly successful competitive cycling career, led and shared her wealth of knowledge with Canada’s Women’s Team Pursuit squad who took home bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games—where the discipline was contested for the first time at an Olympic Games. A Level IV coach and member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, Dubnicoff achieved success with her Olympic team pursuit squad with only a fraction of the budget of the gold medal winning British squad. She is an inspiration and motivational force for women who want to coach at the highest national and international levels which are still very much in need of women coaches. This is Tanya Dubnicoff’s first time on the CAAWS Most Influential List, however she was named as One to Watch in 2005, which highlights emerging leaders.

Video: 2012 Cycling Canada Beijing to London Olympic Celebration

Dr. Vicki Harber (Edmonton, AB)

Professor, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta

Dr. Vicki Harber, a two time Olympic rower, is a motivational force on the Sport for Life (CS4L) Leadership Team, which is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada.  She is a contributor to the gradual awakening around the world that countries must invest in the healthy development of girls so they’ll grow into empowered, resilient women and, consequently, into fully engaged citizens. And that speaks to the health—and wealth—of  a nation. Harber is a contributor to the Actively Engaging Women
and Girls CS4L supplement, published in 2012, which examines the psycho-social factors that influence female athlete development, leadership and lifelong participation in sport and physical activity. This is Dr. Harber’s second consecutive time on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Video: Big Idea, Dr. Vicki Harber

Jennifer Heil (Spruce Grove, AB)

Olympian, role model, community service activist

Jennifer Heil is a celebrated ambassador of community service, well know for her work with the Because I am a Girl initiative which promotes the advancement of girls in underdeveloped countries. Jenn initiated her fundraising challenge to raise $1,000,000 for the cause and has helped raise over $945,000 to date. She also runs her own girls only mogul ski camp mentoring the next generation of female athletes. In 2012, Heil who is a student at McGill University, was part of the Lève-toi et bouge campaign promoting physical activity as well as the CS4L Active for life campaign. She also continued to influence change while working at the London Olympic Games as a member of the media focussing on such issues as gender equality.

This is Jennifer Heil’s first appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Video: Women’s fight for equality at the Olympic Games

Video: Jenn Heil on girls in sport

Clara Hughes (Winnipeg, MB / Glenn Sutton, QC)

Olympian, Advocate, Role-model

Clara Hughes continues to inspire Canadians and the world with her openness, strength and charisma. In 2012, while training for her sixth and final Olympic Games, this queen of competition worked tirelessly on her campaign to promote frank talk about mental health. This same year, her dedication and perseverance was recognized with many honours, including being inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame; being named to the Women’s Executive Network Canada’s Most Powerful Women, Top 100 List; and also being recognized in
the Strombo List of Canadian Women Who Rock. Hughes, who is the first Canadian woman to have won multiple Olympic medals in both Summer and Winter Olympic Games, visited Rwanda and Uganda in November with Right to Play and also joined Right to Play’s International Board in 2012. Hughes has now appeared on the CAAWS Most Influential list four times.

Video: Clara Hughes to join Right To Play’s International

Claudine Labelle (Montréal, QC)

Founder and Executive Director, FitSpirit

Claudine Labelle is the founder of FitSpirit, a foundation that promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle among teenage girls. FitSpirit is driven by Labelle’s vision to enable girls to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle so that they can develop greater self-esteem, as well as a greater sense of ability and self-empowerment in order
to counter the national trend of teenage girls dropping out of sport and physical activity. Since its founding in 2007 and with the assistance of athletes, health experts, motivators and mentors—nearly 67,000 teenage girls in Quebec and Ontario have been inspired to get moving after attending presentations by elite, Olympic and Paralympic women athletes. In 2012, Labelle received the Women of Distinction Award (YWCA of Montreal) in the Sports and Wellness category. This is Labelle’s inaugural time on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Video: From The Top with Claudine Labelle

Allison McNeill (Surrey, BC)

Coach, Mentor

Allison McNeill coached the Canadian women’s basketball team leading up to, and at, the 2012 Olympic Summer Games with incredible brio. Under her auspices, the athletes proved they were true medal contenders, contributing to the Canadian resurgence in team sport success on the Olympic scene. The Basketball Team’s motto was “win the day” and they did this three times to qualify for Olympic Games, and then made an inspiring run to the quarterfinals. McNeill is a coach who truly wanted to get to the Olympic Games more for her athletes than for herself. She coached the senior women’s national team for 12 years and announced her retirement at the end of 2012 leaving the team in the top ten globally. She leaves as the longest-serving national team women’s head coach. She will continue to serve at the grassroots level and is a role model…an outstanding example of what a coach should be. This is Allison McNeill’s third appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential List (2009, 2006).

Video: Allison McNeill Senior Women’s National Basketball
Team Coach

Anne Merklinger (Ottawa, ON)

Chief Executive Officer, Own the Podium

A passionate, creative, and inspiring leader, Anne Merklinger has more than 20 years of management experience with national sport organizations—which served her well in 2012, an Olympic Games and Paralympic Games year. A skilful CEO, Merklinger strategically heads an organization with the momentous mission of making Canada a world leader in high-performance sport. Highly respected by the sporting community, in 2012 she worked with partners to strengthen national policy, programs, sport delivery system and commitment to excellence for both winter and summer high-performance sport. Merklinger’s life-long experience in sport as an athlete and professional is complemented by extensive volunteer experience with a number of organizations including the Sandra Schmirler Foundation. Anne is currently a member of the Board of Special Olympics Canada.
This is Anne Merklinger’s fifth time on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Video: Anne Merklinger

Kelly Murumets (Toronto, ON)

President and CEO, ParticipACTION

Bring Back Play is the new battle cry developed to counter growing rates of obesity and inactivity in Canadian children. It was launched by ParticipACTION’s energetic President and CEO, Kelly Murumets, in 2012 and was designed to bring home the message that play is an essential contributor to healthy lifestyles. Under the leadership of Murumets, ParticipACTION has been rebranded, and launched the campaign because of evidence garnered from the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card. Murumets can be credited with bringing on governments, sponsors and partners to hammer home the message of the power of activity and play in new and creative ways. The campaign focuses on engaging kids in the simple, active play that their parents enjoyed so much as children. A leader in the world of physical activity and a contributor to the Huffington Post, Kelly Murumets has been named to the CAAWS Most Influential List three previous times (2011, 2009, 2007). In 2012, Kelly Murumets was named as one of CBC’s 10 Most Influential Figures in Sport.

Video: B.C. gets moving with ParticipACTION


Maureen Orchard (Winnipeg, MB)

President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation,
Volunteer, Coach

Maureen Orchard’s tireless efforts as volunteer President and Secretary General of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation have been instrumental in the development of the sport. In 2012, through her leadership to create a sport that is inclusive to all, Orchard has developed improved policy, strategy, internal regulations, and equipment standards. Recognizing the importance of growing the game in new communities she worked to provide smaller countries with ample opportunities. Throughout the past year, she worked to ensure the success of wheelchair basketball at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and under her leadership the women’s game has grown to include an U25 Women’s World Championship and an independent Senior Women’s World Championship – which will be held separately from the Men’s event due to the sheer number of teams participating. Her mission is to create a legacy through these two events that will lead to increased participation amongst women. This is Maureen Orchard’s first time on the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Chantal Petitclerc (Montréal, QC)

Team UK Coach for London 2012, Chef de mission, Board member

Sport leader and five-time Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc, one of the most  decorated athletes of all time with 14 Paralympic gold medals, was recruited by the ParalympicsGB athletics team as a coach in 2012 for the London Paralympic Games. This respected veteran also acted as a mentor and attended all key preparation camps and competitions and worked directly with Britain’s wheelchair racers. In 2012, Petitclerc was also selected and began preparation for her role as Canadian Team chef de mission for 2014 Commonwealth Games, representing the first time a Paralympic athlete will be chef de mission in a multi-sport Games. An ambassador for Paralympians and all athletes, Petitclerc also continued her role on many board of directors in sport and physical activity, as well as continuing her work with many volunteer organizations such as Right To Play and Le défi sportif. This is the seventh time Chantal Petitclerc has been named to the CAAWS Most Influential List.

Video: Chantal Petitclerc

Beckie Scott (Vermillion, AB)

Olympian, Advocate, Board member

Olympian Beckie Scott an advocate of drug free sport throughout her illustrious career was named to the executive committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2012, recognizing her contribution and expertise on the subject. This respected Olympic medallist works with fellow Canadian, Minister for State for Sport, Bal Gosal on the board of WADA’s ultimate policy-making body. This past year, Scott also continued with a host of other commitments including serving on the IOC’s Co-ordination Commission for Sochi 2014 as well as her appointment as co-chair of Cross Country Canada’s Women’s Committee, whose mandate it is to facilitate opportunities for girls and women in all facets of the sport. She has just begun her fourth season with Ski Fit North, a joint program operated by Cross Country Alberta and Cross Country Canada that gets disadvantaged First Nations youngsters started in the sport. A Canadian icon, Beckie Scott has been named to the CAAWS Most Influential Women seven times.

Video: WADA – Beckie Scott delivers “Play True” message

Mary Spencer (Windsor, ON)

Olympian, Role-model

First named as a 2010 One to Watch by CAAWS, and then on the 2011 CAAWS Most Influential List, Mary Spencer is strengthening her legacy as a leader while simultaneously building her career as a trailblazer in boxing. Making history by competing in boxing the first time the event was held for women at an Olympic Games in 2012, ensures she is in the record books. She competed fiercely and made Canada proud. And even with greater recognition and commercial success, Spencer has never lost site of the prize by continuing to work with Aboriginal youth. As a member of Motivate Canada’s GEN 7 Aboriginal role model initiative, she has been developing sport, physical activity and empowerment programming with Aboriginal youth in First Nation communities and continues to visit community centres and schools.

Video: Olympic boxer Mary Spencer Q&A

Elisabeth Walker-Young (Vancouver, BC)

Assistant Chef de Mission for the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Elisabeth Walker-Young was Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Bringing an athlete-centred perspective to this core leadership role, Elisabeth contributed to the planning and delivery of operations in London, proudly supporting all members of Team Canada. Her contribution to promoting the Paralympic Movement was enormous. In London, Walker-Young did hundreds of media interviews and also served as CTV’s commentator for the broadcasts of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, an opportunity she used to share her passion and expertise for parasport with Canadian audiences. In addition, Elisabeth acted as a liaison with the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s (CPC) corporate and government partners during the Games. Throughout the year, Elisabeth was very active on social media which added to the influence and connection with Canadians and the sport community she nurtured through her role. In 2012, Walker-Young was also the spokesperson of the Power Walk for Dress For Success Vancouver and Member of CPC’s Paralympic Development Committee. This is Elisabeth
Walker-Young’s first time on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Audio: CBC’s Matt Galloway spoke with Elisabeth Walker-Young

2012 Olympic Women’s Soccer Team

The Canadian Olympic Women’s soccer team captivated and enthralled Canadians. Our nation fell in love with soccer, as we were glued to watching each moment of the Canadian women’s intensity and passion for competition. Diana Matheson who has represented Canada at two consecutive Olympic Games and who rebounded from injury in 2011 to become a London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, was responsible for one of the most iconic goals in Canadian sport. A natural leader, Christine Sinclair became an international superstar as witnessed by the shear volume of awards she has received post the Games. All athletes on the Women’s team are women of influence as they played with their heart on their sleeves. The passion they displayed in London is a wonderful precursor to what we can expect leading up to and during the Women’s World Cup to be held across our nation in 2015. Congratulations to: Candace Chapman; Jonelle Filigno; Robyn Gayle; Kaylyn Kyle; Karina LeBlanc; Diana Matheson; Erin McLeod; Carmelina Moscato;Marie-Eve Nault; Kelly Parker; Sophie Schmidt; Desiree Scott; Lauren Sesselmann; Christine Sinclair; Chelsea Stewart; Melissa Tancredi; Brittany Timko; Rhian Wilkinson; and Emily Zurrer.


Each year, in addition to publishing its Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity List (MIW), CAAWS also highlights emerging leaders as Ones to Watch.

Gail Hamamoto (Richmond, BC)

Executive Director of BC Wheelchair Sports Association, Volunteer

Gail Hamamoto is a recognized and trusted expert in parasport. In addition to being named Executive Director of BC Wheelchair Sports in 2012, she is the volunteer Director of Paralympic Development for the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC); the Chair of the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Management Committee (Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association); and was the Co-Chair of the 2012 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament. In her role with the CPC, Hamamoto oversees the strategy and initiatives involved in growing parasport in Canada from the grassroots up. Working with staff, key successes in 2012 included five regional Parasport Festivals, an expanded Paralympic Schools Program, the launch of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Summits for Paralympic sports, the “It’s More Than Sport” recruitment campaign, and the first ever provincial Parasport Summit (held in Ontario in December 2012).

Kaillie Humphries (Calgary, AB)

Olympian, role-model

A star of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Kaillie Humphries finished off 2012 dominating her sport by winning seven World Cup and a World Championship in bobsledding. Humphries is using her success and status to get more people involved in sport. She says that other women inspired her to push the limit—and she now aims to get more women into the four-person bobsled event. At the Olympic level, she advocates for a four-person women’s bobsleigh competition (presently there is only the two-person event for women). Humphries also contributes to charities including Right To Play and the Special Olympics.